European Summit Challenge
Wales - Snowdon / Yr Wyddfa 1085m

MY INTRODUCTION

My first ascent of Snowdon was at the age of eleven. I was at an impressionable age, looking for adventure and no doubt eager to boast on my return. Snowdon was not just the highest mountain in Wales, it was and still is referred to as the highest mountain in England and Wales, which makes it twice as impressive a boast.

We were on a week long holiday; my mother, father, elder brother and I. We had spent the previous days site seeing around North Wales; Ffestiniog Railway, Portmeirion, the usual places. The walk up Snowdon was going to be a highlight of the holiday and I had been eagerly awaiting it. My father had chosen the Watkins path which lead up to a col between Snowdon's east ridge and Y Lliwedd. Here mother, exhausted with no desire to walk further, opted to wait in the sun whilst we continued the adventure upwards. The path began to zigzag up a slope of broken rock buttresses and loose scree. Being summer, the trail was crowded and on this narrower path we often found ourselves at the back of a queue. The three of us; father, brother and I, stepped off to allow a group of soldiers to pass by on their way down. We might have tried to cut the corner of a zag, I don't think we stepped far, but before we knew it cloud descended and we were enwrapped in a white veil so thick as to be disorientated, the path lost. It seemed obvious to my father which way to go, up. I still remember vividly images from that moment on. The climb was not hard, a scramble on loose rock, never exposed but sufficiently scary to get the adrenalin pumping in child. I loved it. When we reached the summit trig point we weren't tourist, somewhere in the swirling vapours of Snowdon's breath, we had become mountaineers.


Seven years passed before I returned to the mountain. Like most teenagers, I had stopped  going  anywhere  with  my

parent many years before, and so on this occasion I had ridden up to North Wales with a school friend. Phil took a delight in attempting potentially dangerous manoeuvres on steep ground, he was totally fearless. A day out locally was not complete without a leap down the near vertical face of a sand or gravel quarry, riding the debris as it parted from the wall and jumping clear of the mini avalanche before it engulfed him at the bottom. Phil was not interested in long walks up steep hills. A trek across Scotland the previous year had made this clear. Snowdonia, I promised, would be full of steep climbs and exposure. Our first route was a scramble up the North Ridge of Tryfan, a route with which I was familiar having completed it with the Venture Scouts that Easter. Tryfan served as reference from which we could judge our abilities, because the second route would take us up Snowdon via the airy Crib Goch (Red Ridge). This was a route with which I was not familiar and came only from the recommendation of the AA's "Illustrated Guide to Britain", a volume borrowed from my father and not widely known for it's mountaineering content. The guide simply read; "The Crib Goch route could be dangerous for the inexperienced climber." Neither Phil nor myself knew anything of grades, and this seemed a solid endorsement. Adventure could not be more guaranteed. So on a beautiful sunny day at the end of May, we nervously left the car at Pen-y-Pass and headed on up the Pyg Track. The track reached Bwlch y Moch (Pass of the Pig) and contoured round on the other side. We stayed firmly on the ridge line and continued westward. Soon feet alone were no longer adequate, and hands were required to haul ourselves upward as we picked off the most challenging line. The route was everything we had wanted. Easy scrambling, but nothing like either of us had experienced before.   The shear exposure blew us away,  and when  it  came  to  make the

traverse of the knife like ridge towards Crib-y-Ddysgl, we were grinning like men possessed. I remember nothing of the summit itself, nor the descent.
Crib Goch, May 1990.
Crib Goch, May 1990.
Crib Goch, May 1990.
Traversing Crib Goch, May 1990.

Trig Pillar on Snowdon's Summit.
Phil triumphs over Snowdon's, May 1990.



On a more recent winter traverse of Crib Goch, I took the photos to make a cool (if I say so myself) 360 panoramic tour of Snowdon allowing armchair ascent from Pen-y-Pass via Crib Goch, the Pyg Track, or the Miners Track. See a demo above, and make your own virtual ascent at wwww.virtualmountains.co.uk.

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